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Florida considered moving football game to Auburn to avoid Hurricane Irma

Auburn Jordan-Hare Stadium
Shanna Lockwood/USA TODAY Sports

Let it never be said that Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin didn’t consider every possible scenario before ultimately cancelling the Gators’ scheduled home game against Northern Colorado due to the approach of Hurricane Irma. He even explored the feasibility of moving the game to the stadium of an SEC rival: Auburn.

“(Auburn athletic director) Jay (Jacobs) is a good friend and he was more than willing to figure something out there for us, but again that means we’re going to put our team on the road in the conditions that we’re currently under and then when we get there we’ve got to get them back,” Stricklin said on the weekly “Gators Talk” radio show. “And the time to get them back is about the time that storm is starting to come up through the state.

“We just kind of felt like we started to get boxed in. But we spent a lot of time looking at a lot of possibilities.”

Stricklin worked in the Auburn athletic department previously, which is where he and Jacobs first met.

That wasn’t the only creative – some might say crazy – scenario Stricklin kicked around. Another option considered was playing the game as scheduled, but asking fans not to attend to ease the burden on roadways and emergency services busy with hurricane evacuees.

“We even thought about asking fans not to come to a football game,” Stricklin said. “That didn’t seem right, either. If you’re going to play a game at The Swamp, it seems like we should have 88,000 Gators fans with us. The next question is why are you even playing the game if you’re telling people not to come. So it just seemed like the right thing to do (to cancel the game).

“This (hurricane) is an event of massive proportions and it’s going to impact the southern part of our state first, but it could end up impacting every part of this state. And it just seemed like the wise and prudent thing to do at this point.”

The decision to cancel the game became more obvious as the hours passed.

“Once we got to the point where (Thursday) we were looking at all the issues with travel in the state of Florida, even bringing Northern Colorado all the way across the country into Gainesville, Florida, to play a game did not seem like the right note to strike on Saturday,” he said.

While Florida will still have to pay Northern Colorado a $625,000 buyout for cancelling the game, the Gators have insurance to help them cover such situations. Not as well insulated are the hundreds of businesses in the Gainesville area who depend on seven home football games a season to stay in business, but will now only have six, same as last year when the team’s game against LSU was postponed and ultimately moved to Baton Rouge, also due to a hurricane.

RELATED: How to ‘fix’ Florida’s offense? Feleipe Franks needs to let it fly

(You can follow Chadd Scott on Twitter @ChaddScott)

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